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Germany

German Catholic bishops say church must discuss taboos, compensate abuse victims

The Catholic Church must discuss issues such as priestly celibacy, said the head of the church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, who also confirmed compensation would be paid to victims of clerical sexual abuse.

A crucifix hangs from a priest's neck

The German bishops say it's time to open up and talk about difficult topics

The Catholic Church must be prepared to confront and discuss taboo topics such as sexual morality and the celibacy of priests, the head of the church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, said on Friday.

Speaking at the conclusion of the two-day autumn plenary assembly of the German Bishops' Conference in the central city of Fulda, Zollitsch said "the issue of the ... personal, spiritual and sacramental life of our clergy has long been pressing."

The Bishops' Conference was now "taking the initiative toward dialogue that involves itself as well as the diocese," he said.

"That includes ways to talk about awkward subjects in the area of sexuality, the vow of celibacy or the receiving of the sacrament by divorcees," he said.

Zollitsch also addressed the recent austerity drive initiated by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which he labeled as socially unbalanced.

He said that the government should seek to raise taxes rather than cutting social services such as child benefit payments. "It's absolutely necessary that the government deals with this, even if tax increases won't be greeted with enthusiasm," he said.

Deal for abuse victims

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch

Zollitsch says compensation details will be discussed next week

The meeting also confirmed that the German Catholic Church was ready to pay compensation to victims of clerical sexual abuse, following the disclosure of hundreds of cases that have rocked the church in several European countries and the United States over the last year.

Zollitsch said the amount of compensation had yet to be agreed upon, but that "the number of victims who so far asked for financial compensation is very low. That can change once it is known that there is a kind of financial recognition or assistance."

"It is difficult to compensate for something like this," he added. "But we are ready to contribute financially, in the sense of paying for therapy and also as an admission."

The German prelate said the details of any compensation deals would be discussed next week at a round table meeting on abuse set up by the government last March.

Author: Darren Mara (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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